Helpful Understanding of What Makes Southern Baptists, Southern Baptists

Southern Baptists.  Depending on your vantage point, this denominational designation can bring about some strong feelings. Our history began with a commitment to missions and a commitment to the clear teachings of Scripture (a good thing)—but it also began as a split from Northern Baptists in 1845 because Southern Baptists did not see a problem with slaveowners being missionaries (a very bad thing, in my opinion).

Sometimes Southern Baptists are known more for what we are against than what we are for.  In this post, I want to focus exclusively on what we are for.  By virtue of explaining what we are for, we will also by implication state what we are not for.  Even so, given the wide umbrella that is the Southern Baptist Convention, I aim to use the acronym ‘Baptist’ to help clarify who we are and what we by and large believe.

Below is an excerpt that we send to our new members at Arapahoe Road Baptist Church

Biblical Authority: We hold to the Holy Bible (also known as the Scriptures or the Word of God) for everything we do in faith and practice. In 2 Timothy 3:16-17, the Apostle Paul writes, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” God breathes out every word of Scripture so that we may grow to full maturity and be given all we need for all He desires of us.

Autonomy of the Church. What this means is that this church, though one Southern Baptist church of many, is a group of baptized believers who have made a commitment to each other around the Scriptures. We operate as God directs our specific church, directing each person who has joined this church. Only Christ through the Scriptures and none other directs what we do. To read up further on this, go to Matthew 16:15-19; Acts 2:42-47; Acts 6:3-6; Acts 13:1-3.)

Priesthood of the Believer. This means that each believer in Christ can go directly to God the Father through Jesus Christ on His own. While we are certainly accountable under the leadership of the church to whom we belong (Hebrews 13:7-19), we may go to God in adoration, confession of sin, thanksgiving, and making requests to Him without anyone else’s permission.

Two Ordinances: An ordinance is an act that was ordained and practiced by Jesus himself during His earthly ministry. Those two ordinances are baptism and the Lord’s Supper. The Lord’s Supper serves as a divine object lesson to help us remember the sacrifice Jesus made for our sins: the breaking of His body (the bread) and the shedding of His blood (the cup) for the forgiveness of our sins. Baptism comes from the word meaning ‘to immerse.’ Only those who have said they would surrender their all to Jesus were baptized. It is not the last step of salvation, but the first step of obedience—testifying to the believer’s faith in Jesus Christ.

International, North American, and Local Missions. ARBC is like all Southern Baptists in that we long to reach Centennial and Colorado and the corners of the earth. Southern Baptists have over 5,000 full-time missionaries worldwide and numerous other missionaries here in North America working to bring those who are far from God near to Christ. ARBC has been involved in missions to Alaska, Canada, Hungary—along with other missions fronts coming up. Missions work is a defining distinction among Southern Baptists.

Salvation by grace alone to faith alone to the glory of God alone. We are not saved by what we do to gain points with God—we are saved by surrendering and trusting in what Christ has already done through his work on the cross for our sins. Faith plus works does not save (Ephesians 2:8-9), but we see that as Christians our faith will work itself in our lives. We live out whom we love (Ephesians 2:10).

Two Offices. Scripture speaks of two ministry offices in the church: pastor (also called elder, bishop, or overseer in Scripture) and deacon. Their leadership only comes in service to the church in ministering to the physical and spiritual needs therein, but comes ultimately from God.

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